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Appellate court rules against mine company's Tucson project, Native tribe calls it a win

A coalition of environmental groups and Native tribes hailed Thursday's ruling.
Credit: AP
FILE - This file photo taken Monday, May 12, 2019, off Arizona scenic state Highway 83 shows the eastern slope of the Santa Rita Mountains where Canadian firm Hudbay Minerals Inc. plans an open pit copper mine. A federal judge has overturned the U.S. Forest Service's approval of a Canadian company's planned new copper mine in southeastern Arizona. The judge ruled, Wednesday, Aug. 1 2019, the agency improperly evaluated and considered water use issues associated with the Rosemont Mine planned in the Santa Rita Mountains on part of the Coronado National Forest. (AP Photo/Anita Snow,File)

TUCSON, Ariz. — A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a judge's ruling overturning a federal agency's approval of Toronto-based Hudbay Mineral Inc.'s plan for a new open-pit copper mine in southeastern Arizona.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the U.S. Forest Service's approval of a permit for the Rosemont Mine project in a valley on the eastern flank of the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson went beyond what is allowed under a federal mining law.

The appellate court cited the planned use of Coronado National Forest land for long-term storage of waste rock, not actual mining, and the lack of valuable minerals on that property.

Hudbay did not immediate respond to a request for comment on the ruling, the latest in a series of legal obstacles to the project, which has been challenged by conservationists and Native American tribes.

A coalition of environmental groups and Native tribes hailed Thursday's ruling.

“This momentous decision makes it clear that Hudbay’s plan to destroy the beautiful Rosemont Valley is not only a terrible idea, it’s illegal,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. released the following statement: 

"This landmark decision further validates that Rosemont's foreign owners have neither the legal right nor the valid mining claims for their proposed plan to destroy sacred sites beneath a mountain of poisonous mine waste. The ruling thoroughly dismantles the error-riddled process and reinforces the importance of protecting these sites and the entire region’s water supply. As decisive as this decision is, Rosemont's foreign investors will likely continue to try and profit through environmental and cultural destruction. We must not allow this to happen."

Hudbay has another mine project in the works on the western flank of the Santa Ritas.

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